Art History

Abstract for the Small Things in the Eighteenth Century Conference (6-7 June, 2019)

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I’m thrilled to have had the abstract for my paper, ‘‘Joineriana’: the fragmentary form across eighteenth-century culture‘ accepted for the Small Things in the Eighteenth Century conference, hosted by CECS York in June 2019. Details of my paper are included below.

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‘Joineriana’: the fragmentary form across eighteenth-century culture

This paper takes its title from a letter written by Anna Letitia Barbauld to her brother John in 1775, in which she suggested that they might someday ‘sew all our fragments, and make a Joineriana of them,’ going on to list a range of incomplete literary productions, including ‘half a ballad,’ ‘the first scene of a play,’ and some ‘loose similes’, that might form part of a collected volume of such pieces.[1] Using the metaphor of the patchwork quilt, sewn from many fabric fragments to create a complete whole, the letter highlights the intermediality of the fragmentary form in eighteenth-century culture. Existing between literary, visual, and material forms, it encompassed scraps, excerpts, clippings, patches, and pieces of all of kinds. From patchwork quilts, commonplace books, and wunderkammer, to specimen tables, albums, and mosaics, eighteenth-century culture was itself a ‘joineriana’, teeming with a veritable proliferation of fragmentary objects.

Previous literature on the eighteenth-century fragment has focused on two interrelated areas of enquiry. Firstly, scholarship has examined the ‘fragmentary mode’ in contemporary literary production, particularly within texts such as James Macpherson’s 1760 Fragments of ancient poetry, collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and translated from the Gaelic or Erse language, in which the piecemeal nature of the ‘collected’ poetic prose reinforced ideas of authenticity.[2] Correspondingly, research on the fragment has also focused on antiquarian and Romantic interest in the ruin, compellingly relating this to ideas of history, chronology, and the picturesque.[3] This paper builds on this existing research to scrutinize the fragment across a much broader spectrum of eighteenth-century culture, demonstrating its pervasiveness across a range of visual, material, and literary forms at this time.

Examining cultural production in eighteenth-century Britain at the level of its smallest constitutive elements, this paper looks at a range of collections, assemblages, and composite manuscripts. Arguing that the fragment was a central cultural device during this period, it suggests that paying attention to such forms allows us to think about key issues within eighteenth-century art and literature. Firstly, by asking how and where fragments were encountered, collected, and sourced within eighteenth-century life, the paper will reveal how fragments allow us to better understand contemporary processes of consumption and production, such as acquisition and collection, translation and adaptation, as well as broader cultural paradigms of the period, such as the print and consumer ‘revolutions’.  Secondly, the paper will examine how such fragmentary forms related to self-fashioning, exploring the relationship between materiality and identity, sexuality, and emotion. Finally, the paper will also consider the terminologies and nomenclature associated with such objects to think about the deeper meanings of the fragment during this period. By interrogating terms such as ‘scrap’, ‘morsel’ and ‘mosaic’, the paper will consider how these forms were rooted in regimes of scale, permanency, and value that have survived into histories of art and culture today. In so doing, the paper will demonstrate that although fragments were often by their very nature incomplete, ephemeral, and evanescent, they are nevertheless central to our understanding of both eighteenth-century culture, and the histories we write about it.

[1] The Works of Anna Laetitia Barbauld. With a Memoir by Lucy Aikin, 2 vols. (London, 1825), 2:9.

[2] For example, see S. Jung, The Fragmentary Poetic: Eighteenth-Century Uses of an Experimental Mode (Lehigh University Press, 2009).

[3] See S. Thomas, Romanticism and Visuality: Fragments, History, Spectacle (London: Routledge, 2007).

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Journal Article – ‘Craft(ing) Narratives: Specimens, Souvenirs and “Morsels” in A la Ronde’s Specimen Table’, Eighteenth-Century Fiction, vol. 31 no. 1, 2018, pp. 77-97

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I couldn’t be more please to announce that my article, ‘Craft(ing) Narratives: Specimens, Souvenirs and “Morsels” in A la Ronde’s Specimen Table‘ is now out in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, as part of a bumper double special issue on ‘Material Fictions‘, edited by Eugenia Zuroski and Michael Yonan. You can read the article here, and my abstract is below.

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Joining the Association For Art History’s Doctoral and Early Career Researcher Network Project Board

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I’m thrilled to be joining the Association For Art History Doctoral and Early Career Researcher Network Project Board as an Early Career Representative.

The Doctoral & Early Career Research (DECR) network provides a support system and platform for current doctoral researchers and those within 5 years of receiving their doctorate. The network is coordinated by a Project Board which  oversees and organises the Association for Art History’s doctoral and early career research events and initiatives.

The Project Board is made of 12-15 people at different stages in their research career who are based across the UK. The board meets 4 times a year and organises the annual two day Summer Symposium, one day New Voices conference, Careers Day for art history and has responsibility for shortlisting the undergraduate and postgraduate Dissertation Prizes.

If you have any ideas for how the Association could better support doctoral and early career scholars, please get in touch with me via email or twitter.

Abstract for Text, Artefact, Identity: Horace Walpole and the Queer Eighteenth Century (15-16 February, 2019)

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I’m thrilled that my paper ‘Inheriting Strawberry Hill: Shared Practices and Shared Spaces’ has been accepted for next year’s conference Text, Artefact, Identity: Horace Walpole and the Queer Eighteenth Century. The conference brings together scholars and curators from the disciplines of Literature, Cultural History, Art and Architectural History, and Heritage to investigate LGBTQ perspectives on the ‘long’ eighteenth century. The abstract for my paper is included below.

Inheriting Strawberry Hill: Shared Practices and Shared Spaces

This paper will examine Anne Seymour Damer’s brief inheritance and ownership of Horace Walpole’s home Strawberry Hill, following his death in 1797. Although much of the scholarship on the house to date has focused on the design and decoration of Walpole’s gothic-revival edifice, comparatively little research has been conducted on the significance of Damer’s acquisition of the property. Building upon the extensive body of literature on Walpole and sexuality, this paper shifts focus to consider his relationship with Damer, another figure whose sexual orientation has been the subject of intense speculation. Positing Damer’s inheritance of Strawberry Hill as Walpole’s attempt at creating a queer familial legacy for his home, the paper situates this transaction in relation to the interconnected contexts of ownership and loss, emotion and materiality. Alongside a consideration of Damer’s inheritance of Strawberry Hill, which will be identified as a shared space enjoyed by both her and Walpole, the paper will also examine the pair’s shared practices revolving around the house, specifically their coactive extra-illustration of copies of Walpole’s A Description of the Villa of Mr. Horace Walpole (1784). In so doing, the paper will demonstrate the centrality of the relationship between materiality, queer sociability, and emotion in our understanding of both Strawberry Hill and the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century home more broadly.

Abstract for Constructions of Love and the Emotions of Intimacy, 1750-1850 (9 February, 2019)

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Serena Reading, by James Hopwood Sr, published by Vernor, Hood & Sharpe, after George Romney
stipple engraving, published 1 October 1811 5 7/8 in. x 3 7/8 in. (148 mm x 99 mm) paper size. National Portrait Gallery.

I’m hugely excited that my paper ‘‘Pledges of an highly-prized friendship’: Anna Seward, Portraiture, and the Poetics of Exchange’ was accepted for the 2019 conference, Constructions of Love and the Emotions of Intimacy, 1750-1850, which examines the roles love and intimacy played in interpersonal relationships throughout this period. My abstract is included below.

‘Pledges of an highly-prized friendship’: Anna Seward, Portraiture, and the Poetics of Exchange

This paper unpacks the complex networks of emotional, artistic, and poetic exchange that surrounded a highly emotional portrait-object: a printed version of George Romney’s painting Serena given to Lady Eleanor Butler (1739-1829) and Sarah Ponsonby (1755-1831)—the so-called ‘Ladies of Llangollen’—by the poet Anna Seward (1742-1809). Seward identified the image as a ‘perfect similitude’ of her deceased step-sister Honora Sneyd, so much so that the print played an active role in Seward’s commemoration of their lost friendship. Like Butler and Ponsonby’s own infamous ‘romantic friendship’, Seward and Sneyd enjoyed an intensely close and deeply affectionate relationship that flouted social norms, with both Sneyd’s marriage to Richard Edgeworth in 1751, and her eventual death in 1780, devastating the poet. Discussing both Seward’s copy of the print, as well as Butler and Ponsonby’s facsimile, the paper places the image within two contexts: firstly, in relation to Seward’s volume of poetry Llangollen Vale with Other Poems (1796), a sentimentalising series of verses dedicated to Seward’s intimate relationships with Butler, Ponsonby, and Sneyd; and secondly, within an intricate display of gifted portraits at Plas Newydd, Butler and Ponsonby’s home at Llangollen in Wales. Using methodologies from the history of the emotions, material culture studies, and queer theory, it will demonstrate the image’s deep embedment within Seward’s emotional and creative consciousness: on the one hand, allowing Seward to actively ruminate and comment upon her close connections with Sneyd, Butler, and Ponsonby; and on the other, functioning within a dynamic web of literary, material, and loving gestures enacted between Seward and her friends.

Abstract for Reading the Country House (16-17 November, 2018)

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I’m excited to be presenting my paper ‘Publishing Wilkes’s ‘Villakin’: Reading, Reception and Reputation at Sandown Cottage’ at the forthcoming Reading the Country House conference, to be held at MMU in November. The conference focuses on the ways in which the country house was ‘made to be read’, whether through the legibility of their decorative schemes or their description in published materials. My abstract for the conference is included below.

Publishing Wilkes’s ‘Villakin’: Reading, Reception and Reputation at Sandown Cottage

This paper unpacks a complex episode in the relationship between interior decoration, travel writing, and identity formation in late eighteenth-century Britain. Examining John Wilkes’s summer residence Sandown Cottage (commonly known as ‘Villakin’) on the Isle of Wight, it provides an unprecedented consideration of the aesthetic programme of Wilkes’s country home and its role in constructing and reflecting its owner’s multifarious identities. Focusing on published accounts of Sandown Cottage, it situates descriptions of Wilkes’s home within the contexts of taste, sociability, and domestic tourism, highlighting the centrality of visual and material culture within these texts. Describing the residence as fitted up ‘with every regard and attention to elegance,’ such accounts consistently related the house’s ornamentation to Wilkes’s becoming personal qualities. This paper will accordingly consider how the publication and circulation of Sandown Cottage’s collections and decoration in contemporary travel writing functioned as a kind of reputation management; neutralising Wilkes’s radical politics and instead facilitating his self-presentation as a consummately refined host and tasteful art collector. Discussing a broad variety of visual and material culture and its representation, the paper challenges divisions between the fine and decorative arts, interior and exterior spaces, and between the material object and the written word more broadly.

Book Review: Heather McPherson, Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons.

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My review of Heather McPherson’s 2017 book Art and Celebrity in the Age of Reynolds and Siddons is now available online as an early view copy from the Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies. Check it out here.